Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

3.  Memorandum submitted by the Ascension Trust


  Street Pastors is an interdenominational response to neighbourhood problems; engaging with people on the streets and in night-time venues to, listen, dialogue and offer practical help and solutions.


    —  The sacredness and sanctity of human life.

    —  Valuing and honouring the community.

    —  Taking personal responsibility.

    —  Being a person of integrity.

    —  The growth and development of the person to their fullest potential.


    —  To develop the project to build capacity and sustainability.

    —  To provide an outreach volunteer service to prevent crime, defuse volatile situations and divert those involved and/or at risk of criminal activity and anti-social behaviour into training, employment and other meaningful and empowering pursuits.


  Ascension Trust began in 1993 by Reverend Les Isaacs who wanted to see individuals working effectively within their local church, community, city and nation. The idea was to provide a means through training, education and nurturing to develop and empower others to contribute positively to the society in which they live and subsequently improve their quality of life.

  The organisation has a passion to see people lives healed of the social injustices that deprives and excludes them from participating in mainstream activities and leads to a life of deprivation. We are faced with countless examples of economic, social and spiritual deprivation and extremes in living conditions in Britain highlighting the plight of poverty in our society. Ascension Trust led by Reverend Les Isaacs and managed by trustees from a wide range of professional and business disciplines has a vision to utilise the skills and professional expertise of like-minded Christians and non-Christians to address issues facing our society today in a practical and solution focused way.

  Today rather than preaching the heaven and hell message he now mobilises church leaders and members to tackle and face the rising issue of gun crime and violence that is adversely affecting our communities.

  The need for the church to implement a strategy to address this issue of street crime was birthed and in 2001 Les Isaacs visited Jamaica to research how the churches there had responded to gun crime, which was by now reaching endemic proportions. Les met with two pastors whose work on the streets of Jamaica befriending gang members, drug Lords and acting as intermediaries for the police inspired him to establish teams voluntary outreach workers from the church who would go into their communities and engage with disaffected young people. In 2002 David Shosanya, trustee for Ascension Trust visited Boston to study the Baker House initiative from which the 10 Point Coalition was drafted. These studies underpinned the development of the British street pastors' model which was then adopted in Jamaica and enabled wider participation from the churches.

  In 2002 Ascension Trust launched a "Guns of our Streets Tour" to five London hotspots; Brent, Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth and Southwark, Aston in Birmingham and inner city Moss Side and Longsight in Manchester. The aim of the tour was to:

    —  Raise community and church awareness of gun crime and the fast growing gun culture.

    —  Think about and implement practical solutions to stem the tide of gun and violent crimes in the UK.

    —  Build community and church support, by working together to effect change in socially deprived and high crime areas.

    —  To enlist the support and consult with young people, parents, the police, local MPs, community and church leaders, Probation and other statutory agencies.

  A report was produced after the tour highlighting the findings from the consultations and discussions that took place. As a response to the recommendations made the Street Pastors project was launched in January 2003. The launch coincided with the tragic deaths of teenagers Charlene Ellis and Latisha Shakespeare—caught in crossfire when attending a new years party in Birmingham on January 2nd. Church leaders looked to Ascension Trust for guidance.


  Street Pastors is an interdenominational response to neighbourhood problems; engaging with people on the streets and in night-time venues to, listen, dialogue and offer practical help and solutions. A Street Pastor is a concerned member of a local church who goes out on the streets at night to engage, listen and care for people on the margins of society. Their purpose is not to preach heaven and hell, but to provide a solution focused approach to address the issues facing disenfranchised youth. The street pastors outreach sessions operates on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 pm-4 am. They go out in teams under the supervision of a senior Street Pastor and wear a distinctive blue jacket and cap bearing the logo "STREET PASTORS" in reflective lettering. All street pastors have to attend 12 week training programme to ensure they are equipped mentally, spiritually and practically to engage effectively with people on the street and to provide them with advice, guidance and support to access mainstream services.

  This work is highly sensitive and integral to it is open dialogue and joint working with the police, community and church leaders to ensure that boundaries are defined and the work being undertaken by the Street Pastors is understood. Collaborative inter-agency ways of working is actively encouraged to address the myriad of issues affecting socially excluded young people of which there are many black children.

  The key issues for this group are:

    —  They are often disaffected young people suffering the breakdown of family.

    —  Not having either parents or anyone to care for them, often living on their own or in care.

    —  Many have dropped out of school or excluded.

    —  Lack training/qualifications.

    —  Unemployment.

    —  Poverty.

    —  Involvement in gangs.

    —  Getting involved in criminality ie drugs are a lucrative business.

    —  Criminal records.

    —  Vulnerable/at risk ie do what people tell them to do.

  The gangs play an integral part in affirming their identity and give them a role/status amongst their peers. There are many black children fitting this description and part of the intervention strategy to get them re-engaged in society to access training, education and employment is done by the work of the Street Pastors and Co-ordinators by:

    —  establishing trust, through rapport and dialogue;

    —  providing a listening ear;

    —  being present and available during unsocial hours;

    —  providing the opportunity to hand in dangerous weapons (in line with police protocol);

    —  providing information and advice—directory of local agencies and national help lines;

    —  making referrals into education, training;

    —  working with other voluntary and statutory agencies;

    —  being a deterrent to violence and vandalism;

    —  providing prayer support;

    —  collecting baseline information on the young people for follow-up; and

    —  having access to activity and support that will reduce criminal activity and behaviour.


  Street pastors is now a successful inter-denominational programme with well over 450 trained volunteer street pastors from a range of church backgrounds, who regularly take to the streets of some of London's boroughs with the highest offending rates, levels of drug abuse, gun and other violent crime and urban deprivation (including Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Brent). There are currently 80 new street pastors in training in London and we have many on the waiting list for the September course.

  We are now operating nationally with Street Pastors in inner city areas around the country known for having similar problems (such as Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester, Leeds). We also work in areas not traditionally linked with such extreme social conditions—such as Merton, Bromley and Sutton in London, Southend and Kingston—that find themselves affected by the malevolence of binge drinkers, anti-social behaviour, knife crime and the like. We work closely with local churches, other community leaders, agencies and projects—both statutory and voluntary—to look at collaborative ways of tackling issues affecting young people and the communities in which they live. A key element of our approach is to build trust and to join up the work on the streets with that provided by other agencies—principally what Les Isaacs calls the "urban trinity", the relationship between the church, police and local authority.

  The initiative is developing rapidly across the country and internationally and on average we are getting at about three or four enquiries a week. Below is a list of projects and developments:


  Antigua and Barbuda


  Cambridge; Enfield; Kingston-upon-Thames; Orpington; Wrexham and Haringey.

Poised For

  Aberdeen; Bexley; Bedford; Braintree; Barnet; Croydon; Huddersfield; Horsham; Ipswich; Merseyside; Norwich; Portsmouth; Chard, Somerset; South Wales; Weston-Super-Mare and Bridgend.

In Discussion

  Bournemouth; Bishop's Stortford; Bristol; Blackburn; Brighton; Cornwall; Chelmsford; Camden; Coventry; Dorset; Epsom; Grinstead; Hounslow; Halifax; Havering; Northern Ireland; Luton; Lincolnshire; Maidstone; Milton Keynes; Nottingham; Rushden; Northampton; Plymouth; Preston; Reading; Staffordshire; Sheffield; Yeovil; Stoke-on-Trent; Southampton; Stowmarket; Suffolk; Southport; Mid-Wales and Yeovil.

Contacted By

  Canada; Ghana; Pakistan; Dominica; New Zealand; America and Nigeria.

Reverend Les Isaacs


July 2006

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